Finding a job in recovery can be incredibly difficult. The stigma that the recovery community faces is often most apparent during the employment process. Many companies approach applicants in recovery with prejudice, overlooking quality candidates in the process. This stigma discourages those in recovery from pursuing work that suits their skillset, and can have a lasting negative impact on their mental health, impact which can, and very often does, lead to relapse. Because of these stereotypes, many former addicts are excluded from being considered viable applicants for many job positions, leaving an entire population of willing and capable workers from being properly utilized in the workforce. However, some states like New Hampshire are creating and pursuing new recovery-friendly workplace initiatives in order to cultivate a new kind of company culture, one that ultimately supports those in recovery and helps them on their continued journey of sobriety.
Advantages of Recovery-Friendly Workplaces
In addition to helping those who are having trouble finding a job in recovery, these workplaces actually make smart business sense. Multiple reports suggest that helping, supporting, and hiring employees in recovery can bring several different benefits to both the employer and the candidate. Candidates experience the security, dignity and financial stability of a quality position while employers get a loyal, committed and highly motivated employee. Because most individuals in recovery have gone through the twelve-step program, bringing on recovering addicts can help cultivate a new company culture by incorporating a refreshing view regarding honesty, acceptance, and continued growth and humility that are intrinsic to recovery and sobriety.
These principles of recovery can become more apparent through their work as they become more confident, productive, and proud of their skills, and can impact other members of the workforce as well. In creating a workplace with evidence-based health and safety programming, companies can develop a healthier, more productive and more motivated workforce overall. In giving someone the chance to get a “normal” life back, a company demonstrates empathy and sends a strong message to the community and consumer population that they have a thorough and educated understanding of solution-focused approaches, the complexities of addiction, and the importance of both mental and behavioral health.
What Do Recovery-Friendly Workplaces Look Like?
Recovery-friendly workplaces treat substance use like any other medical condition and not like a moral failing. If an employee relapses, it is taken as an opportunity to support, not abandon, the individual, not unlike surgery or maternity. Aside from promoting a culture that discourages and challenges many of the stereotypes of addiction, recovery-friendly workplaces encourage an environment where the entire work community, including both employees and employers, can collaborate to create a positive change that eliminates the barriers that exist for those workers in recovery. By demonstrating their commitment to a recovery-friendly environment and eliminating the barriers for those impacted by addiction, companies can construct a workplace where safety, productivity, and profitability are at their peak and remove the obstacles that make finding a job in recovery so difficult.
The Plan in Action
A good example of these practices is Hypertherm, an industrial-cutting tool company in New Hampshire that goes above and beyond for their employees in recovery. Not only do they encourage open discussion of addiction as a method of combating stigma, they provide employees the opportunity to volunteer and become recovery coaches, and also teach employees and community members how to use naloxone in case of an overdose. Aside from tapping into the enormously untouched labor pool that is comprised of former addicts, the company desires to do the right thing by supporting its employees that struggle with the disease of addiction, or those who have family members embroiled in the struggle. Although there are occasional incidents where employees are unable to overcome their addictions and lose their lives during relapse; those are risks the company is willing to take in order to help as many people as possible.
The incumbent governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, proposed the idea of having private businesses contribute to the battle against the opioid crisis in his state. Helping people with finding a job in recovery helps break down social stigma while helping former addicts pursue better qualities of life. Continuing to shun these applicants creates an increasing number of unnecessary issues for those not only in the recovery community but also for the economy. Giving those in recovery a second chance helps everyone in the workplace and can ultimately save lives. As long as there are companies looking to hire loyal and hard-working individuals, those in recovery looking for advocacy and support might just be the ideal match for them.